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Friday Bird Droppings: Looking back on a successful 2022 for the Orioles

The year is almost over, and it was a good one for Baltimore baseball.

Los Angeles Angels v Baltimore Orioles
The O’s had plenty of cause for celebration in 2022.
Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

Good morning, Camden Chatters.

We’re two days away from closing the book on 2022. As we look back at what transpired in baseball this year, Orioles fans — for the first time in a long time — can feel pretty darn pleased about how their team performed. A club that was expected to continue its stretch of five straight losing seasons, predicted by some to lose at least 100 games, instead shocked the baseball world by staying in contention until the final weekend of the season while improving their record by 31 games.

No longer do O’s fans need to say goodbye and good riddance to another year. Instead, there’s growing optimism in Birdland, the Orioles’ quiet offseason notwithstanding. If the team can build upon its surprise success next year, with full seasons from Adley Rutschman and Gunnar Henderson as well as the expected debuts of Grayson Rodriguez and other top prospects, we may look back at 2022 as a pivotal turning point for the franchise.

As we prepare to leave 2022 in the rearview, let’s look back at 10 significant games from this year in Orioles baseball, presented in chronological order:

1. April 11: Orioles 2, Brewers 0. The Birds’ home opener, the first one in three years that was unaffected by pandemic restrictions, brought a lively crowd to Camden Yards. Baltimore native Bruce Zimmermann combined with four relievers on the Orioles’ first of 15 shutouts this year, and newly minted closer Jorge López notched his first save of an eventual All-Star campaign.

2. May 20: Orioles 8, Rays 6. In the last game of the pre-Adley Rutschman era, the O’s rallied back from three separate deficits — including two runs in the 10th and one in the 11th — to win on Rougned Odor’s walkoff two-run homer to the flag court in the 13th. Nick Vespi pitched two scoreless innings in his MLB debut for the victory.

3. May 21: Rays 6, Orioles 1. Forget the final score: it was Rutschmas, baby. The #1 prospect in baseball made his long-awaited debut, and he was more than worth the hype, lashing a seventh-inning triple for his first major league hit in front of a raucous Camden Yards crowd and his family. It was just a taste of what was to come from the superstar rookie.

4. May 27: Orioles 12, Red Sox 8. The O’s pulled off a stunning comeback in Boston, rallying back from a six-run deficit in the seventh thanks to 10 unanswered runs in their last three innings. Key home runs by Jorge Mateo and Austin Hays sparked the rally.

5. July 4: Orioles 7, Rangers 6; and July 5: Orioles 10, Rangers 9. In back-to-back games, the O’s pulled off dramatic, walkoff victories. In the first, Rutschman tied the game with a two-out RBI double in the ninth, then the O’s won on a two-pitch 10th inning that featured a bunt, an intentional walk, and a game-winning HBP. The next night, a sloppy, back-and-forth game again saw the Birds tie it down to their last out, this time on an Odor homer, before Cedric Mullins delivered the game-ending RBI double in the 10th.

6. July 8: Orioles 5, Angels 4. The Comeback Kids did it again, tallying three runs in the bottom of the ninth against closer Raisel Iglesias — all with two outs — to erase a two-run deficit. A Rutschman RBI double and Mullins run-scoring single tied it, setting up Trey Mancini’s game-winning single to left field that brought his teammates out of the dugout in jubilation. It was the Orioles’ sixth straight win and part of a perfect 7-0 homestand.

7. July 13: Orioles 7, Cubs 1. The Orioles’ incredible winning streak hit 10 games, their longest in 23 years, forcing all of baseball to take notice of the upstart club. Hays went 4-for-5 and starter Spenser Watkins worked five scoreless innings as the Birds pulled a game above .500 for the first time that late in a season since 2017.

8. August 25: Orioles 4, White Sox 3. The baseball gods were smiling on the O’s in this one, as White Sox outfielder Adam Engel dropped a foul pop-up in the ninth that would have ended the game. Given new life, rookie Kyle Stowers hit his first major league home run off All-Star closer Liam Hendriks, tying the score, and Anthony Santander won it with a walkoff single in the 11th.

9. August 26: Orioles 2, Astros 0. Rookie Kyle Bradish threw the finest game of his young career, absolutely dominating the eventual World Series champions with eight innings of shutout ball. Ramón Urías provided the O’s offense with a two-run homer, and there was extra drama in the ninth, when the recently traded Mancini — in his first game against the Orioles — came up as the winning run in the ninth, only for Dillon Tate to strike him out on three pitches.

10. September 23: Orioles 6, Astros 0. O’s pitching again stymied the fearsome Astros, with Dean Kremer throwing his first career shutout while a Rutschman homer led the Birds’ offense. Kremer’s gem was the third in a row for the O’s rotation, after Bradish worked 8.2 scoreless against Houston the previous night and Jordan Lyles shut out the Tigers before that.

Whew. And I didn’t even mention Hays hitting for the cycle in a rain-shortened game June 22, or Mancini’s miraculous inside-the-park homer in his final game in Baltimore as an Oriole on July 28. Yes, folks, it was quite a year.


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Orioles birthdays and history

Is today your birthday? Happy birthday! Former Orioles born on this day include right-handers Jim Hoey (40) and Archie Corbin (55) and first baseman Jose Morales (78), as well as notable non-Oriole Grant Balfour (45), whose two-year agreement with the Birds in 2014 was scuttled when the O’s objected to the results of his physical.

Dec. 30, not surprisingly, has been a very quiet day in Orioles history. Digging through the Camden Chat archives, the one notable story from this date was the Orioles’ rumored offer of an eight-year contract to free agent Matt Holliday in 2009 (a rumor that then-GM Andy MacPhail denied). Nothing became of it, naturally, but in hindsight it wouldn’t have been the worst idea. Holliday, who ended up re-signing with the Cardinals for seven years and $120 million, was a productive hitter for the life of the contract, a four-time All-Star and top-25 MVP finisher four times in that span.

Of course, the Orioles could still end up with a superstar Holliday on their club, as Matt’s son, Jackson, was the club’s first overall draft pick this year and now one of their top prospects.